Hard News by Russell Brown

Traditional Pragmatic Conservative

Simon Pound conducted an excellent interview on The Wire with National Party historian Barry Gustafson, regarding the moderate pushback within the party: NATFORT and all that. Gustafson's view is that the ideas on Maori and immigrants that National took into this year's election were the work of the "radical right" and that true conservatives would be far more circumspect.

"From time to time," he says, "the more free-market ideologically-driven radical right manages to seize control" of the National Party, and this has been one of those times.

This, he believes, is at odds with the prevailing conservative philosophy within the party. NATFORT's backers, he believes, are saying that "you cannot actually oversimplify and polarise on the issue of the Treaty and the place of Maori. Perceptions and realities are such that this is a complex issue and it needs to be looked and there needs to be an element of understanding and goodwill. And it's not a black and white thing - we have to realise that the Treaty does have a great symbolic significance, and that has to be addressed."

Gustafson is careful to say he does not regard the current course as racist, but says he believes that John Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Simon Power and Katherine Rich are all "much more traditional pragmatic conservative National Party people."

He also believes the new National intake will make its influence felt:

"You've got all kinds of people in the National Party with a range of experiences and knowledge who I think will not be satisfied with over-simplified slogans. That's fine for billboards during an election campaign, but they will want to discuss the detail of policy, and I think we're going to have a major debate on all kinds of issues including the Treaty and Maori."

A couple of correspondents have taken issue with my belief that it will be very difficult for Labour to win the next election. It's certainly not impossible, but a number of factors will conspire against it, not least the fact that Labour didn't take on board a lot of fresh talent this year. It would take a very strong performance in government. (On the other hand, the idea that the new government will only last a year is just a comforting Tory fantasy.) At any rate, it is appropriate, as Simon says, to think about what sort of National government we’d want running the place. If Gustafson's talking like this, I presume he's not the only one.

In quite a different vein, here is probably the best thing I've read about election day. Isaac Freeman blogs his day as an issuing officer. It's funny and intelligent.

Psst: … The New Zealand Herald Greasemonkey Script is back. It uses a different method from the one shut off by the Herald yesterday, and one that might take a little longer to disable.

The forcible ejection of Walter Wolfgang from the British Labour Party conference is hard to see as other than an illustration of what's wrong with that party under Blair. Wolfgang, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, has been a Labour Party member for 57 years. His offence this week seems to have been to shout out one word - "nonsense" - from up in the Gods during a speech by foreign secretary Jack Straw. He was thereafter bundled out by stewards, and then declined re-entry under - and this pretty much confirms every civil libertarian's worst fears - the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was eventually re-admitted to a hero's welcome. The BBC has a story and pictures, and it's widely covered in the British newspapers.

I think Blair has taken on a messiah complex. Again, he has fudged his promise to make way for Gordon Brown, and he continues to behave as the sole recipient of the truth. He needs to keep his word, stop pretending he's saving the world, and go sooner rather than later.

DPF started out making fun of the Greens' meeting with business leaders on Kiwiblog, to little useful end, but the subsequent discussion thread has some good moments. Frog notes that the Dom Post also covered the other side of the business leaders' meeting - ie, not the windbags who rushed out and blathered for the cameras afterwards. On the other hand, Nevil Gibson, who should know better, managed to cram just about every panicky anti-Green cliché into one post on the NBR blog. As I've said, I don't agree with every Green policy, but I see a role for them in Parliament and, if it comes to it, in coalition (I might say the same about Act if they hadn't behaved like such arses in the past three years).

Meanwhile, the Arctic ice cap has melted to a record low, raising fears that a "positive feedback" cycle of accelerated warming may already have come into play. Not to worry, though, because it's all just a plot by anti-business zealots in the worldwide green lobby …

The CBS News report (transcript and video) Undeclared Civil War In Iraq is pretty scary.

And finally, Tom DeLay, the corrupt Republican House majority leader, actually has to face a court, after being impotently admonished three times in the past year by the House ethics committee. Perhaps this might lead to some better scrutiny of the democratic indecency of last year's Texas redistricting scam, which was steered by DeLay. The Village Voice backgrounds the current case and DeLay's grubby history.

This is pretty hilarious for those who occasionally look in on evil stick insect Ann Coulter. Coulter was asked on Fox News to comment on the fact that, as a San Francisco Chronicle story pointed out, conservative cause celebre Pat Tillman (a college football star who enlisted in the army, went to Iraq and was killed in a covered-up friendly fire incident) opposed the Iraq war, planned to vote Kerry and read Noam Chomsky - all qualities that should make him, by Coulter's reasoning, a traitorous scumbag who hates America. She responded in the classic neocon style. Flat-out denial. Here's the video.

And to conclude: while we wait for the special vote count to be announced, Public Address reader David Stone has pointed out to me something that should have been evident, but which I haven't seen anyone else make note of. For all the talk of polling volatility as polling day drew near, the lead did not change in any of the major polls. All the AC Nielsen polls in September showed National in front and all the Herald Digipolls showed Labour in front. All the One News Colmar Brunton polls in September showed National in front and all the 3 News TNS Global polls showed Labour in front.

Says David:

Midst all the volatility that has so far been the centre of post-election attention, how can this consistency of differences between the polls be explained? It certainly meant that once the election result was known, it would show which organisations were getting things (more) right, and which were getting them (more) wrong. As it turns out, the last 3News/TNS poll was the closest. But the remarkably consistent differences between the media/polling organisations - ACNeilsen and Colmar Brunton with National leading, and Digipoll and TNS with Labour in front - remains unexplained.

This, among other aspects of the polls, suggests that the polling organisations should be much more open about their methodology - timing, demographics, degree of response, assumptions, etc. It would be particularly interesting, don't you think, for them to be asked directly to explain their consistently different results?

Yes, I think it would be interesting.

By the way, this post is as long as it is because circumstances prevent me being elsewhere, so I might as well type. Those circumstances being a lengthy (over a week now) and debilitating attack of gout, which tends to strike in Spring.

I've hitherto never considered the condition bad enough to go on the preventative medication (I find the idea of a daily pill for life a bit challenging) but, after the past week, pass the damn tablets, nurse. Trouble is, I can't start the preventative until the symptoms subside, and that hasn't happened. I've had to blow out important meetings in Christchurch and Wellington this week and turn down a prime ticket for the Auckland vs Wellington NPC match tonight, and I'll probably miss the ASPA Awards tomorrow night. I am tired, pissed off and in pain. So make the gout jokes by all means, just forgive me if I don't laugh …